When we look to our leaders, many times we are seeking affirmation of our understandings that we know to be collective and compassionate. Across the world, kindness spreads through the voices of people, no matter the size of their platform. Let’s take a look at spiritual and religious figures who have proposed kindness as a way of life, as a solution to the hurt we experience around us and as a connection to ourselves.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama voices the importance of kindness. Acting as head monk, there have only been 14 Dalai Lamas in history. These three quotes offer an alternative understanding to many of the hegemonic discourses of scarcity, impossibility, and isolation. The Dalai Lama ensures us that kindness goes beyond worries of lacking, inability or unhappiness and brings us (all of us) to a better place.
“Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
The Buddha’s teachings constitute the foundation for Buddhism, focused on the cycle of life and on the aim of overcoming suffering. An implicit understanding of living in this world and its suffering requires Mettā (Pali) or maitrī (Sanskrit) which is loving-kindness. The point of kindness is not as an isolated act, but instead a way to create a better world and humankind.
“When words are both true and kind, they can change the world.”
“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”
Lao Tzu’s philosophy and writing provide the foundation for Taoism (or Daoism), where one of the Three Treasures is compassion. Taoism emphasizes living in harmony with the unplanned rhythms of the universe, and kindness plays an important role.
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”
Confucius’s philosophy and writing are also formative and focus on morality, relationships, justice, and sincerity. He advocated for the Golden Rule of doing to others as we would have done to ourselves, and clearly, kindness plays an important role in what we all hope to receive ourselves.
“Forget injuries; never forget kindness.”
“Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.”
“To be able to practice five things everywhere under heaven constitutes perfect virtue: gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.”
Hindu spiritual teacher Swami Sivananda became a monk after studying and working in medicine. In Hindu philosophy, Karuna, another word for compassion, means placing one’s mind in other’s favor and seeking to understand the other from their perspective. Other forms of the word compassion in Hindi refer to mitigating and understanding the suffering of others.
“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.”
In the Catholic Christian tradition, Mother Teresa of Calcutta spread the action of kindness everywhere she went. As a nun, she followed her faith to move out of the convent and help the poor while living among them. Her missionaries of charity continue to spread kindness to those most in need.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
“Let us more and more insist on raising funds of love, of kindness, of understanding, of peace.”
Saint Basil, considered a saint in both Eastern and Western Christian traditions, was a theologian known for his care of the poor and underprivileged. A lasting monument to the bishop was the institute before the gates of his city that was used as a poorhouse, hospital, and hospice.
“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”
All of these religious figures understand the value of kindness, and we can also honor the humanity and spirit within us by living these call to kind actions. From Eastern to Western traditions, the spiritual leaders have shown that kindness forms a central part of the human experience, spiritually, philosophically, and physically.